The final episode of “The Enfield Haunting” started just as its predecessors had, with an opening sequence unrelated to the main event, intended to put a sense of unease upon its audience. The writers were clearly focused on unsettling their viewers, to soften them up for what was to come, and for the most part they succeeded. It’s admirable that the structure remained constant throughout the three episodes, and it highlights the intelligence with which the series was put together. However, the ending of a horror film is always the hardest part to get right, and that’s certainly the same for television.
It’s incredibly difficult to give an audience a satisfying conclusion to a story which essentially revolves around fear and the unknown, because to answer all the questions is to destroy the intrigue. I often feel that to end a horror story on a positive note you have to do the exact opposite; you have to kill off your protagonist, have them lose their minds, or end on a crazy twist. “The Enfield Haunting” does its best to finish strong whilst also providing a sense of believability, but it never reaches the relentless feeing of dread that permeated the first episode.
The series had a clear and well-established arc, present in almost every piece of media which revolves around a haunting. There are three acts: 1) The possession (the introduction of the antagonist – in this case the poltergeist possesses the house, rather than a person); 2) The exposition (the bridge between two extremes – the part where origins are explored and details are filled out); and 3) The exorcism (the bit where it all goes back to normal).
The episode began with an exorcism, but the actual ridding of the ghost took place towards the end of the episode, or at least it appeared to. It wasn’t clear whether or not Janet (Eleanor Worthington Cox) was actually free of ‘Joe’ or the other ghosts that appeared in this episode, but I feel that we were supposed to take it for granted that things would be alright. I didn’t find the exorcism or this episode very scary at all, which is a shame – I actually found it quite funny on a number of occasions, particularly when Janet was shaking at the dinner table (that scene with “Twist and Shout” playing behind it would make for a great meme). For me, this mini-series lost a lot of its magic by the middle point of this episode, and I was disappointed that the series declined in quality following the first episode.
Episode three, and indeed the whole series, suffered from a serious case of horror logic, because Janet was allowed to do as she pleased all the time, even though she was the most vulnerable person in the family. This annoyed me quite a bit whilst I was watching, because she could’ve been protected a lot better and still found herself in scary situations. She didn’t have to be totally neglected or ignored in order to make this series frightening; she could’ve easily been alone for more elaborate and thoughtful reasons.
In my opinion this episode suffered significantly when Janet was put into the hospital – it kept building upon the feeling of anxiety and vulnerability that the series had created, and it was a clever evolution of the series which took it beyond the formulaic exorcism and fade to black, but having to watch Janet’s loved ones struggle to keep her safe was uncomfortable in the wrong way. I’m not saying that it wasn’t good, but I would’ve preferred to have the story finish with a traditional exorcism, instead of such a distressing series of events. It was smart to have the story end with the family basically having to denounce their previous explanation of events, because in reality people will doubt your story no matter how true it is if it relates to things that they don’t understand, but it was very dissatisfying and disappointing.
Furthermore, the relationship between Maurice (Timothy Spall) and Janet got slightly strange towards the end – I understand that he was projecting his feelings about his daughter onto her, but he seemed to take it a little too far. His performance actually made me feel quite uncomfortable, because his relationship with Janet felt unnatural, and he didn’t seem to have any regard for boundaries. That was a problem with the writing more than the acting, but I have to say that it was a massive oversight – it just didn’t feel right.
Nevertheless, Eleanor Worthington Cox handled her difficult scenes amazingly; she was the star of the show and everything she did was impressive. The scene in which she screamed about everything she hated was touching and heart-warming, and she conveyed her emotions in such an intelligent and wonderful way. If there’s anything positive to take from this series it’s that Worthington Cox was brilliant, and that she has a lot of potential for the future.
I wasn’t overly keen on the idea that people are more vulnerable to paranormal activity if they have pent up anger and frustration, because I’ve known a lot of angry people and they haven’t been haunted as far as I’m aware! I prefer the idea that these kinds of things, if they occur, are just random and unexplainable, because life can’t always be under our control. I don’t need a conclusive explanation for something that no one can understand, so please don’t try to give me one at the end of your television series.
Speaking of the ending… for me it didn’t really tie everything up in a nice little bow as it pretended to. Nothing had actually changed, so it wasn’t clear that things would get better for the Hodgson family. What’s to say that another poltergeist couldn’t take hold of Janet and be much more aggressive? Nothing that’s what! This was a shame, and I think it’s fair to say that we as an audience deserved something more substantial to make us feel as though there was something meaningful to the three hours of television that we’d just sat through.
All in all, “The Enfield Haunting” was an interesting attempt to take the horror genre to the small screen, working on a tight budget and utilising the ability of a talented young actress. However, it got progressively less scary and less interesting as the episodes passed, and it never really managed to live up to the heights of episode one. The ending, and indeed episode three in general, was completely lacklustre and didn’t make a whole lot of sense. The problem of giving the series a happy ending partially ruined my enjoyment of it, because the poltergeist that was plaguing the house simply disappeared so that Maurice could have his moment of relief. In the end, what could’ve been an outstanding series simply became a disappointment, leaving me feeling frustrated and dejected.
The series as a whole – 6.5/10